This Week in History: The Likud ‘upheaval’
For the first 29 years of Israel’s existence, one party – predecessors of the Labor party – dominated the young country’s politics and a narrow range of political ideologies ruled its governing coalitions. In 1977 that all changed.
On May 17, 1977, the Likud ousted the long-dominant Alignment bloc for the first time. In doing so, Israel’s first non-leftist prime minister, Menachem Begin, forever changed the face and dynamics of Israeli democracy. Whereas the Likud and its predecessor Herut had played a constant opposition role in the first three decades of the state, from that day on, the Israeli political system would be subject to true electoral competition and its governments’ ideologies began moving back and forth in future elections.
Although the Likud’s ideological roots were and continue to be tied to the ideology of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism, the party’s 1977 election victory was the result of a much wider revolt against the ruling political elites of the Labor party, specifically its ethnic makeup. With immigration having changed the face of the country since its establishment in 1948, by the late 1970s, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews from Arab and eastern countries comprised a majority of the country’s Jewish population. The Labor Party’s predecessors who had been in power until that time, an elite political class groomed by David Ben-Gurion, were predominantly Ashkenazi Jews.